Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Cover Reveal – STEEL MAGIC

I am very excited to reveal the cover of J.L. Gribble’s second novel, STEEL MAGIC. Isn’t it fantastic??

Pre-order the book now, you won’t be sorry J http://amzn.to/1Rc17n2

This is the second novel in her STEEL EMPIRES series, published by Dog Star Books. Here’s the synopsis:

STEEL MAGIC, by J.L. Gribble

Funerals are usually the end of the story, not the beginning.

Newly graduated warrior-mages Toria Connor and Kane Nalamas find themselves the last remaining mages in the city when a mage school teacher mysteriously falls ill and dies. But taking over the school themselves isn't in the cards. They're set to become professional mercenaries-if they make it through the next 18 months as journeymen first.

The debate over whether to hunt mutated monsters in the Wasteland or take posh bodyguard jobs is put on hold when a city elder hires them to solve the mystery of the disappearing mages. Toria and Kane's quest brings them to the British colonial city of New Angouleme, where their initial investigation reveals that the problem is even greater than they feared.

But when a friend is kidnapped, they'll have to travel to the other side of the globe to save her, save themselves, and save magic itself.

The first novel in the series, STEEL VICTORY, met with great acclaim.

Some of my favorite reviewer quotes for STEEL VICTORY:

“High Fantasy, Alt-History, and No Apologies”

“The most unique feature of this debut novel is the setting--a highly creative mélange of genres (contemporary, fantasy, mystery, alternate history, to name a few) best described as postmodern urban fantasy.”

“Steel Victory has everything you want in a first novel. Strong female characters (multiple!), a love story (that violin!), action (sword fights!), espionage (battles!), politics (just enough!). It is a quick read with a writing style that sucks you in and makes you crave more.”

About J.L. Gribble:

By day, J. L. Gribble is a professional medical editor. By night, she does freelance fiction editing in all genres, along with reading, playing video games, and occasionally even writing. She is currently working on the Steel Empires series for Dog Star Books, the science-fiction/adventure imprint of Raw Dog Screaming Press. Previously, she was an editor for the Far Worlds anthology.

Gribble studied English at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. She received her Master’s degree in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, where her debut novel Steel Victory was her thesis for the program.

She lives in Ellicott City, Maryland, with her husband and three vocal Siamese cats. Find her online (www.jlgribble.com), on Facebook (www.facebook.com/jlgribblewriter), and on Twitter and Instagram (@hannaedits).

And last but not least, check out Bradley Sharp, the ultra talented cover artist:

Bradley Sharp was born in 1977 in Oxfordshire, UK. From a young age he filled many sketch books, so it only made sense to study Graphic Communication at Nene University, where he received a BA Honors degree in 1997.

But the real world called Sharp away from academics, so he traveled around the globe a couple of times, working as a graphic designer. Now he makes a living by designing magazine spreads, but freelances with vector illustrations, allowing him to create something far-removed from what he does in his nine-to-five job.

Sharp finds vector to be an easy tool and believes anyone can use it. "I'd say my artwork is nothing more than glorified doodling. I like the logical inconsistencies of surrealism and find inspiration from many places such as music or the science fiction genre. Dog Star's novels lend themselves well to my style. I look forward to working with DSB in the future, and hope fans will like the imagery as much as they enjoy the words." Find Sharp's work online at http://www.bradsharp.co.uk.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Debra Dixon, GOAL, MOTIVATION & CONFLICT, and Plotting

This last weekend I was lucky enough to attend a workshop headed by Debra Dixon and hosted by the Southwest Florida Romance Writers.

For those of you who are writers, you probably know who Debra Dixon is. She wrote GMC: GOAL, MOTIVATION & CONFLICT, from Gryphon Books for Writers. I consider this to be an essential text for writers, and especially those writers just starting out.

When I first started writing fiction, I was finishing my BS in Geology, starting my Masters in Writing Popular Fiction, and perpetually broke. Buying GOAL, MOTIVATION & CONFLICT at that time, a hardcover book at $20 a pop + shipping, was a splurge for me. But I had heard it referenced time and time again by writers, so I took the plunge and bought it.

Thank the void I did!

No writing book is a bible. No one book will give you all the answers. As writers, we’re all looking for a formula, a magic bullet, a 1, 2, 3 step-by-step guide to best seller fiction.

That does not exist. (Sadly!)

However, this book is one of the VERY BEST tools you can add to your writing toolkit.
I have read it cover to cover at least 4 times over my writing career so far. That is the max number of times I have read any writing book.

What I love about this book:

  • Basic language, very approachable. It is not wrapped up in theory.
  • Excellent examples that perfectly illustrate the concepts Dixon is preaching.
  •   Worksheets. I’m a sucker for something tangible I can take away from a book, and Dixon’s GMC worksheets are excellent.

I have used Dixon’s GMC worksheet on every character, minor or major, in every book I’ve written or worked on, since I first read GMC. It’s not a magic formula, but it is a great jumping off point.

But, I’m not a plotter, I’m a pantser! This book is useless to me!”

Not true! Dixon takes no concrete stance on whether you need to do this first, mid-book, or when revisions start. She just lays out a basic formula that resonates with the human experience (based on Joseph Campbell’s and Christopher Volgler’s works on storytelling and myth).

The idea of GMC is worth considering no matter what stage of the draft you’re at.

The book is now (finally) available in ebook, if you want that format. Otherwise, if you want the physical book, like me, you want to go directly to the publisher’s website: 

www.Gryphonbooksforwriters.com. It’s cheapest there.

 Now here I am, a decade after I started out as a very poor college student writer, and you can bet your sweet bippy that I STILL have that book, and that I very proudly, like the fangirl that I am, got it signed by Debra Dixon.

Go Forth. Read GMC. And Conquer. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Quinton Hoover Died???

The homework for the first week of drawing class was to pick a favorite artist and draw a replica of something of theirs. Now, I’m a reader/writer and gaming nerd, not an art history buff, so my favorite artists are all book cover artist and Magic: The Gathering card artists. So, it’s no surprise that Michael Whelan, Quinton Hoover and Rebecca Guay.

I decided against Michael Whelan b/c, while he might be my favorite, what I love most about his book covers is his use of color. For instance, look at this gorgeous cover series for Tad William’s Otherland.

Quinton Hoover was probably an easy first choice because he illustrated one of my all-time favorite MTG cards, Archangel:

That had waaaaaay too much going on for me to draw though, so I looked at some of Rebecca Guay’s stuff. I love her style, it’s very flowy and feminine, but I feel like the power of the image is so color-based that drawing it really wouldn’t look like much.

Quinton Hoover’s style is more graphic, imo. So while I was looking at some of my favorite cards of his, I learned that he had died!!! I had no idea!! He was only 49 when he died. Here’s a great article about Quinton Hoover.

I was heartbroken, and decided that of course I had to draw one of Hoover’s cards! I debated between many, but in the end I settled on Pixie Queen.

Quinton Hoover’s Pixie Queen

My pencil drawing of it, week 1 of class.

Obviously, my Pixie Queen eats a little better than Hoover’s does ;-) She likes her sweetmeats! But overall, for having zero training, I’m pretty happy with it. It’s not 100% done, but I think I’m calling it “done.”

Writing Without Words - Week 2

Had my second Drawing class today, and it was awesome. I’m pretty sure I had a ridiculously happy smile on my face the entire time. We got gigantic drawing pads and a bunch of materials: different charcoals, graphite pencils, pastels and even some conte crayons, plus 3 different erasers. Then we spent the rest of class busting everything out and using it all to get to how it works. It was so much fun to get dirty, to draw huge swathes of black charcoal across a page, then smudge it all. No rules, no nothing, just getting to know the materials.

That’s it.

For a girl who went to college the first time around for Geology, this is frickin’ amazing. You know what I worked on my second week in Chemistry I? Molarity. Yep. And my first week’s homework assignment? Memorize the first 3 levels of the periodic table - element names, numbers (protons) and weights out to 2 decimal places. I kid you not.

So, to spend the class hours drawing was like being at recess :)

Side note: If you are a chem, bio, or earth science major, I HIGHLY recommend memorizing the first 3 levels of the periodic table. It saves you a ridiculous about of time versus looking things up. It was one of the best things I ever did.

Fun with conte crayons and pastels

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Writing Without Words - Day 3

The professor of my Drawing I class at FGCU is all about keeping things simple. Toward that end, he stipulated that all we needed for course materials this semester (beyond the text book) was a ream of copy paper and a regular #2 pencil. (For the most part. At some point we need a cheap-o portfolio, mid-terms/finals) I admit that I was a little disappointed, because I was really looking forward to getting into texture. I wanted to use fancy "art" paper and special "art" pencils, charcoal, pastels, yaddie yaddie. But, I get the sense that, to my teacher, these things are a bit superfluous for Drawing I. And considering that out of 22 people, only 3 are actually art majors, he's probably right.

The urge to buy fancy supplies for drawing mirrors that urge I get when I see new "writing/plotting programs" being advertised. I always think, "this is the magic bullet! This will help me write books in no time!" But the truth for writing is as simple as my drawing instructor's choice of copy paper and a #2 pencil: For writing, all you need is a blank MS Word page and your own mind. No one can write the book for you. And, no matter how fancy the materials, no one can create the drawing for you.

That said, I still burned some creative energy by decorating my "portfolio" (AKA a white pocket folder holding copy paper) with sparkle glitter tape. Am I too mature, at 35, to go into class wielding this?




Awkward Freshmen, behold what 15 more years of life experience will bring you to. ;-)

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Writing Without Words - Day 1

This little writer is going back to school!

Today I had my first day of class at Florida Gulf Coast University. I have enrolled as an ... wait for it ... ART MAJOR!! (enter disbelieving laughter here)

It’s true!

Those of you who have known me all my life will likely find this hilarious. And if you haven't known me that long, trust me, hilarity is about to ensue. I can't draw a straight line with a ruler. I can't hit the broad side of a barn with a ... uh ... a ruler. Drat. I botched that one.

Anyway, I am officially an Art student at FGCU, and my first class is "Drawing I." Before you start with the "WTF is going on here??" let me rewind it.

If I'm happy as a clam to be a full-time writer, living my dream, what sent me back to school as an art major?


Yup, I'm going to study the visual arts as a means to further my writing. It might be better to say that I am studying the visual arts in order to broaden and foster my well of creativity, which will in turn increase the emotional depth of my writing.

What brought this on? The dreaded "SOPHOMORE SLUMP," otherwise known as "I AM LIVING IN FEAR OF MY SECOND PUBLISHED NOVEL BEING A FLOP."

2015 was a dream year for me. My debut scifi novel TheEmpress Game was well-received by critiques and fans. The positive response was so far past what I'd hoped for that I spent the second half of 2015 feeling like a princess in a fairytale. But with success comes expectations, and suddenly I'm staring at a second book and thinking, "Have I upped my game with this one? Have I grown as an author?"

It didn't hit me until just now, but what I've really been adjusting to since October is the idea that I am a full-time writer now. Writing is no longer the side job. It's no longer the pastime. It's no longer the "fit it in when you can, but don't jeopardize your day job" thing. For the last 4 years, even though I've been writing books, I've spent the majority of my self-improvement efforts on becoming better at my day job. Being a better editor for Nasdaq, learning to edit more carefully, more quickly, and multi-tasking like a fiend. I've been developing the editorial role at Nasdaq on the whole, researching the job, identifying weaknesses in training, working with management on changes, yaddie yaddie.

Now, (and it took me 3 months to really embrace this fully) ALLLLLLLL of that intense effort should be, and can be, turned toward my writing career. I am no longer content to just write the stories that come to me. I want to be More. Better. Deeper. Wiser. Craftier. Subtler. I want to be raw and pain and sophistication and art. I want to GROW. And this is a freedom. This is an amazing freedom, to be able to focus on my writing as my career. It also makes me think, "HOLY SHIT. THERE IS SO MUCH TO DOOOOO!"

Since finishing the draft of Book 2 of the Empress Game (which I think will be titled Cloak of War) I've become obsessed with improving myself as a writer. I've amassed a pile of craft books that I've been working my way through. (Slowly) I've been reading more critically. I've been searching for inspiration outside of my comfort zone.

I now have the time to fully become the writer I want to be.  That's in bold because it is so profound and so important to me.

And that will be a major focus of my 2016 year. Not just to write, but to work at becoming the writer I want to be.

It's a journey that will take the rest of my life, and I am looking forward to it. :)

Part of that journey means expanding my creativity. If you know me, you know I am an analytical person. I was born to be a scientist. I followed that path all my life until grad school, when the writing fever ambushed me. (And I've never regretted that for one second!)  But I love logic. And efficiency. I love to plan, to think things out, to discover all the angles and possibilities and outcomes before making a move. I am deliberate and calculating. It rules my life.

I wouldn't have it any other way. For me, I find a sense of security in obsessing about details and logistics, knowing I've set myself up for success as best as possible. This is even helpful in my writing. I'm going back to my roots as a plotter (after pantsing the last 1.5 novels I wrote). However, all the outlining and plotting in the world will not make for a great read UNLESS there is emotion behind it. Real, painful, dirty, gritty, beautiful, sacrificing, sublime emotion. I want my books to make logical, rational sense, but I want them to breathe. I want their hearts to beat. I want them to bleed.

And that is where Drawing I comes in.

I'm going to crack open my head and see what pours out when words are forbidden and only creativity remains. I'm going to see what happens when it's just me, a blank page, and a pencil. When I don't have to worry about questions like, "Am I using the passive voice here?" "Is this motivation plausible?" "Will this satisfy my readers' expectations for Kayla?" "Will the critics like it?" "Will this novel be labeled as stereotypical and trite?" "Am I being cliche?" "Is this too obvious?" "Did I foreshadow this enough?" and on and on and on and on and on and on......

In this class I am looking forward to creating art for an audience of one: Me. I'm going to please myself. I'm going to work hard and have fun with it. I'm going to free myself to fail. My career does not depend on my mastering the art of drawing. This class is just for me and my soul.

And I couldn't be more excited about that. :)

Sunday, December 20, 2015

In the Spirit of Giving – Rescue Dogs Deserve Extra Love!

A friend of mine, Aimee Leigh Reichert, has the most beautiful and sweet rescue dog! His name is Timber, and he seems to be a hell of a guy. Aimee took him in when he was just 8 weeks old and suffering from pneumonia. He survived, and now he’s a very happy 1 year old!

Unfortunately, they just found out that he has cruciate ligament tearing in both hind legs and he needs surgery to repair it. The cost is of course high, but Timber is only 1 year old. This surgery is the difference between a long happy life of running and a very painful existence filled with disability.

Despite the expense, they’re dedicated to helping Timber. If you’re interested in Timber and his story you can read about it here: 

They’ve set up a CrowdRise fund where you can donate. Even the tiniest bit helps!

This story hit me hard for a few reasons:

1    1) Anyone who rescues unwanted dogs is an angel. Rescue dogs almost always require extra care (which of course means more money). This might be special medical treatment, training, or just personality quirks that require extra love and understanding. People willingly take on these dogs even knowing extra care will be needed.

Three of my last 4 dogs have been rescues, and I greatly admire everyone who takes in rescues.

      2) Aimee not only took in a rescue dog, but she took in a rescue pitbull!

I love pitbulls. They are fantastic dogs. True they can pack a serious amount of force into a bite, but their strength doesn’t make them a bad dog. BAD OWNERS turn pitbulls into a danger. (I can get on a rant about bad dog owners, but I’ll save this for another time!)
Instead, I want to tell you about my first rescue dog, Isabel, who was also a pitbull. She remains the sweetest of the dogs I’ve been lucky enough to adopt.

Here’s my rescue story:

I found Isabel online by searching the MSPCA for available rescues. She had a great write-up: she was the staff’s favorite, always happy, always wanting to chase down tennis balls.

So, I drove into Boston to meet her. When I got to the shelter she was nowhere to be found! The lady at the desk and I searched all the pens, and I was heartbroken to think she might have been adopted already. I saw another beautiful pitbull while I was there, but I just didn’t connect with that guy. As I was getting ready to leave, a staffer brought Isabel in from outside – they’d been playing fetch with her in the back yard the whole time!

As soon as I meet her I knew she was the dog for me, and I adopted her on the spot.

Isabel was about 2 ½ years old when I adopted her. Her teeth had all been filed down by whoever owned her before she was abandoned. At the shelter, she kept tennis balls with her at all times. (In fact, she could fit 3 tennis balls in her mouth at a time, and regularly did that :) )The staff speculated that she’d had a litter that had been taken away from her immediately, so Isabel tried to keep replacement “pups” with her at all times.

When she came home, she was afraid of men and hand-shy. If you were standing and reached out, intending to pet her, she flinched back because she thought you meant to strike her. So, she’d probably been abused by a man.

When I got her home she stayed with me EVERYWHERE. But she soon learned that I wasn’t going to abandon her, that we weren’t going to hit her, and that men were not to be feared. Once she figured that out, she was as happy and confident as could be :)

Why this story if we’re talking about Timber?

Because of the injury. Isabel LOVED to run and fetch. It was her favorite thing of all time. We started buying her kongs (b/c they’re nearly indestructible and she liked to chew). Isabel was happiest running after a kong. We’d stand at one end of the yard and throw it the entire distance. She’d sprint after it, bring it back, and do that over and over and over. It was pretty much her favorite thing about life.

Isabel waiting for me to throw the kong for her

If she was on the deck when I pulled up in the driveway, as soon as I turned the engine off and opened the car door, she was there with a kong. She could have that thing in my lap before I could get out of the car!

I think she actually came to love men because she realized they could throw the kong farther and get her more running distance. :)

When I think about Isabel, that’s what I remember most about her, how much she loved to run. That’s what breaks my heart about Timber’s injuries. Pitbulls need to run. They have so much energy! And it just makes them happy.

I’m donating to Timber’s fund, and I hope you will consider giving a little bit as well. There are so many sad stories about pitbulls, I really want this one to have a happy ending! Every single cent makes a difference!

Here’s the link again if you’d like to help Timber keep on running!